by Simon Stevens
It seems that a day never passes without some organisation or charity saying how badly the government’s cuts will hit disabled people. Most talk about the “loss of basic human rights”.
Often it’s “carers” who talk about their fears. Disabled people shout about anything they find hard as now being a “hate crime”, like being asked if they can work. Parents and carers also make personal attacks on the government, blaming it for all the woes of parenthood. It all makes very depressing reading.
If we look beyond the headlines and at the finer detail, are things as bad as people make out?
This government is a mess, that’s for sure, but has it really damaged the lives of disabled people so much since last May? While some campaigns talk about a 26% cut in social care, the reality is that many councils are choosing to cut libraries and public toilets, not social care. The Independent Living Fund is being closed in 2015 because of its inability to fit into personalisation not to make people suffer. And the disability living allowance/personal independence payment consultation is barely over and will take a generation to implement properly.
The reality is that the battleground for disabled people and their families is not on the streets but at the assessment tables. Now we talk about outcomes, social workers will need to offer more cost effective solutions that keep or improve the delivery of users’ personalised outcomes. Service users have a responsibility to consider alternatives but should be empowered to be confident in discussions. But, saying this, I am yet to be convinced that councils are insensitive to the needs of service users. And I still can not see the degree of axe- wielding that we had in the 1990s when community care was sorting itself out.
The real question to ask here is who really has most to fear from the cuts and the answer to that is the many middlemen in social care who depend on the dependency of disabled people for their existence. This is probably the real reason for the scaremongering we are currently seeing. These middlemen and women are in the services which separate users from the monies they should control.
Therefore service users and carers are seen to need ‘support’ from services imposed on them and the system has established a comfort in keeping disabled people dependent on them, rather than empowering them to be fully included citizens using mainstream services.
We need to be very careful in understanding the true bigger picture in these crazy times.
Simon Stevens is a service user and an independent disability consultant